Inspiration strikes some early, such as for Harold “Hal” Smith Prince. Born in 1928 in New York City, Prince played with a miniature cardboard theater as a boy, using toy soldiers for actors. He also took in Manhattan’s rich cultural life, including seeing Orson Wells in “Julius Caesar” in the famous Mercury Theatre.
In 1954, Prince’s professional life in the theater was relatively new. He was a young man in the business, only 24 and merely a few years out of the University of Pennsylvania and a U.S. Army tour in post-World War II Germany. Fresh on the heels of a few stage managing positions, he co-produced a classic musical, “The Pajama Game.” It was an extremely auspicious move. The work garnered three 1955 Tony Awards and set Prince on a career trajectory that is unrivaled.
Just in general numbers, Prince has been a producer or director in nearly 60 Broadway works. He’s garnered 21 Tony Awards, more than any other individual, and 10 Drama Desk Awards. Even his mere nominations — 17 Tony and six Drama Desk near-wins — make most other Broadway résumés seem a bit thin.
It’s the specifics that are staggering when considering Prince’s contribution to entertainment history. Right out of the gate, he was a producer of monumental shows, including “Damn Yankees” (1955), “West Side Story” (1957), “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” (1962) and “Fiddler on the Roof” (1964).
By the middle of the decade, Prince had expanded his role from singularly producing works to also directing, as he did with the smash hit “Cabaret” (1966).
As the 1970s dawned, Prince began a fruitful – and record-breaking – recurring collaboration with another titan of Broadway, Stephen Sondheim. Together they brought to life productions including “Company” (1970), “Follies” (1971) and “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” (1979).
As a creative force, Prince was prolific through the 1990s creating hits such as “Kiss of the Spider Woman” (1992) and a revival of “Candide” (1997). In the 2000s he had success with “LoveMusik” (2007).
Prince has also worked with none other than Andrew Lloyd Webber in directing both “Evita” (1978) and “The Phantom of the Opera” (1986).
In addition to musicals, Prince has directed numerous plays, operas and two feature films, including “A Little Night Music” (1977). And this coming October his personal opus – “The Prince of Broadway” – will open in Japan, marking his sixth decade of stagecraft.
Over the years, Prince has become an indelible part of American culture. He received a 2006 Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theater and is a Kennedy Center Honoree. Prince is also one of the remarkable individuals to have been awarded the National Medal of Arts.
Beyond his public life on Broadway, Prince has been married to his wife, Judith Chaplin, since 1962. They have a daughter, Daisy, and a son, Charles. Both follow in their father’s footsteps and work in the performing arts.
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